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Old 24-05-2021, 08:53   #1
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Cleaning the engine/compartment

Every time I buy an old car or airplane one of the first things I do is thoroughly clean the engine and compartment.

It makes working on the engine much more pleasant, but on the practical side it makes identifying issues much easier and quicker. For example fluid leaks, and their source, become much more obvious, accumulating belt dust is obvious and so on.

Typically what I do is get a couple gallons of Coleman fuel (aka white gas, naptha) and use a siphon sprayer on an air compressor to blast off all the accumulated years of grime. The naptha flashes off pretty quickly. On a car or airplane its easy to do this in a well ventilated environment and to use a sheet of cardboard underneath to catch/collect/dispose of the grime (oily residue etc) properly.

Now I'm faced with a boat (Hunter 38) with 15 years accumulated grime. I want to do the same thing.

1) Is it a reasonable approach?
2) Is it safe to do this in the more confined areas in a boat, perhaps with a box fan running?
3) Will the Coleman fuel have any negative impact on any boat materials e.g. fiberglass, gelcoat etc?

There's some oil absorbent mat (old!) under the engine now. I was planning pulling and tossing that, then using a hose and dock water to flush the little bit of water and coolant and whatever else down into the bilge where it would be pumped out (there's not enough to pump out separately with a little bilge pump), then drying it out and putting in some new oil absorbent mat before using the Coleman fuel. Then I can catch the grime, toss it, renew the oil absorbent when done.
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Old 24-05-2021, 20:56   #2
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Re: Cleaning the engine/compartment

Well I used to help build timber treatment plants which used white spirit which is the same thing I'm guessing & all the pumps electric motors, wiring etc had to be to explosafe standards.
I'm not sure what those standards are but I doubt your box fan motor is to that standard.
On the other hand i bet there are plenty of petrol engines in boats that have non-explosafe std starter motors & alternators. They dont spray the petrol around you'd hope though. I'm no expert on it as i worked on the fabricating & mechanical side. But petrol engines in boats are more risky explosion/firewise than diesel.

You can get plenty of engine cleaners/degreasers that are less risky so why take the risk?
thats my 2c worth
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Old 24-05-2021, 21:40   #3
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Re: Cleaning the engine/compartment

Quote:
1) Is it a reasonable approach? NO
2) Is it safe to do this in the more confined areas in a boat, perhaps with a box fan running? NO
3) Will the Coleman fuel have any negative impact on any boat materials e.g. fiberglass, gelcoat etc? Well, blowing the boat to bits might be considered a negative impact!
coleman fuel is essentially unleaded gasoline with similar vapor pressure and flash point.

What you describe is quite emphatically unsafe.

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Old 24-05-2021, 21:49   #4
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Re: Cleaning the engine/compartment

I use Super Clean, a very strong soap, available at most auto parts stores.
You spray it on, wait, and hose it off. Really thick grime deposits may take a few times.
It doesn't explode, burn or melt your wiring insulation.
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Old 24-05-2021, 22:42   #5
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Re: Cleaning the engine/compartment

Quote:
Originally Posted by flightlead404 View Post
Every time I buy an old car or airplane one of the first things I do is thoroughly clean the engine and compartment.

It makes working on the engine much more pleasant, but on the practical side it makes identifying issues much easier and quicker. For example fluid leaks, and their source, become much more obvious, accumulating belt dust is obvious and so on.

Typically what I do is get a couple gallons of Coleman fuel (aka white gas, naptha) and use a siphon sprayer on an air compressor to blast off all the accumulated years of grime. The naptha flashes off pretty quickly. On a car or airplane its easy to do this in a well ventilated environment and to use a sheet of cardboard underneath to catch/collect/dispose of the grime (oily residue etc) properly.

Now I'm faced with a boat (Hunter 38) with 15 years accumulated grime. I want to do the same thing.

1) Is it a reasonable approach?
2) Is it safe to do this in the more confined areas in a boat, perhaps with a box fan running?
3) Will the Coleman fuel have any negative impact on any boat materials e.g. fiberglass, gelcoat etc?

There's some oil absorbent mat (old!) under the engine now. I was planning pulling and tossing that, then using a hose and dock water to flush the little bit of water and coolant and whatever else down into the bilge where it would be pumped out (there's not enough to pump out separately with a little bilge pump), then drying it out and putting in some new oil absorbent mat before using the Coleman fuel. Then I can catch the grime, toss it, renew the oil absorbent when done.
Don't kill yourself!
Use simple green in a steam cleaner or hot water and garden sprayer.
Scrub with brush, rinse.
You don't need the gas.
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Old 25-05-2021, 06:04   #6
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Re: Cleaning the engine/compartment

Quote:
Originally Posted by flightlead404 View Post
1) Is it a reasonable approach?
No. This could very well be one for the Darwin Awards. https://darwinawards.com/

Quote:
Originally Posted by flightlead404 View Post
2) On a car or airplane its easy to do this in a well-ventilated environment..."
Is it safe to do this in the more confined areas in a boat, perhaps with a box fan running?
No. Going forward, note for yourself that the confined spaces of a sailboat are never considered "a well-ventilated environment".
For a cautionary tale, read Chotu's latest threads:

Heart Results are in - boat options?
https://www.cruisersforum.com/forums...ns-250821.html
More Medical Problems - should I sell?
https://www.cruisersforum.com/forums...on-250298.html

Quote:
Originally Posted by flightlead404 View Post
3) Will the Coleman fuel have any negative impact on any boat materials e.g. fiberglass, gelcoat, etc?
Yes. Just use the Super Clean that Lepke recommends and save yourself a lot of trouble.

It's good that you thought to ask before going forward, though! You just saved yourself from blowing you and your boat to kingdom come AND prevented long-term, chronic health problems... Well done.

LittleWing77
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Old 25-05-2021, 06:14   #7
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Re: Cleaning the engine/compartment

Let me get this straight.......you spray atomized unleaded gasoline mixed with air.

Let me just leave this at that.
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Old 25-05-2021, 07:11   #8
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Re: Cleaning the engine/compartment

That’s not a best practice for boats. Suggest using oil absorbing pads to remove any floating petroleum that could get discharged when you start hosing things out. Once you have the bulk of that, basically any solvent will break down the adhesive bonds- it doesn’t need to be extraordinarily aggressive. The suggestions above are all good ones.

If you’re a fan of condition-based maintenance, the thing to do is apply de waxing agent then abrade your bilge/engine compartment with ~80 grit sand paper (or in the case of a failing base layer of paint, grind it all off), then throw down a couple coats of white Bilgecoat.
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Old 25-05-2021, 08:43   #9
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Re: Cleaning the engine/compartment

Quote "There's some oil absorbent mat (old!) under the engine now. I was planning pulling and tossing that, then using a hose and dock water to flush the little bit of water and coolant and whatever else down into the bilge where it would be pumped out"

Unless your boat is on the hard, the pumping out you describe sounds like you dwould pump out all the nasty grime and sludge out into the water of the marina. Can you consider pumping into a container for proper disposal?
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Old 25-05-2021, 08:52   #10
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Re: Cleaning the engine/compartment

Just buy a can of spray degreaser if it's that dirty. But many marine engines aren't that greasy really.
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Old 25-05-2021, 14:01   #11
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Re: Cleaning the engine/compartment

I also clean the engine and engine compartment of any vehicle I purchase to make work easier and to see leaks. I use engine degreasers and a pressure washer, being careful not to let the high pressure stream damage anything.
Cars (and airplane) engines are in basically open enclosures. Any spills can drop to the ground where they can readily dissipate to below levels which are explosive. Boat hulls are sealed to keep water out - which very effectively keeps heavier than air fumes within a relatively confined space.
Spraying white gasoline - or any other strong solvent - in a boat hull is a very big no-no.
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Old 28-06-2021, 08:25   #12
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Re: Cleaning the engine/compartment

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sailmonkey View Post
Let me get this straight.......you spray atomized unleaded gasoline mixed with air.

Let me just leave this at that.
When at home I do it outside, on the ramp, with no ignition sources near.

Or I'll use mineral spirits, which flashes off much slower.

Been doing it for years, and got the technique from and old mechanic who did it on DC-3s.
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Old 28-06-2021, 08:27   #13
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Re: Cleaning the engine/compartment

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bullshooter View Post
Quote "There's some oil absorbent mat (old!) under the engine now. I was planning pulling and tossing that, then using a hose and dock water to flush the little bit of water and coolant and whatever else down into the bilge where it would be pumped out"

Unless your boat is on the hard, the pumping out you describe sounds like you dwould pump out all the nasty grime and sludge out into the water of the marina. Can you consider pumping into a container for proper disposal?
I didn't write that clearly. There's some dirty water under there that I can't get out any other way, but its not oil/fuel contaminated or at least its not a significant amount. I wanted to get that water out BEFORE oil and dirt goes down there and then use NEW oil absorbents to properly remove and dispose of the grime.
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Old 28-06-2021, 08:28   #14
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Re: Cleaning the engine/compartment

Thanks all, I'll just use Simple Green, have gallons of that on hand
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Old 28-06-2021, 08:49   #15
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Re: Cleaning the engine/compartment

Quote:
Originally Posted by flightlead404 View Post
When at home I do it outside, on the ramp, with no ignition sources near.

Or I'll use mineral spirits, which flashes off much slower.

Been doing it for years, and got the technique from and old mechanic who did it on DC-3s.
I believe what SailMonkey was referring to was the potential for a static discharge with the compressed air. That's your potential ignition source. In any event you seem to be going in a safer direction now.
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